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Mont Ventoux is a mountain located in the Provence region in the south of France. The mountain is only 20 kilometres north east of Carpentras, Vaucluse. The name of the mountain sounds like the French word for windy and the mountain sure lives up to it. The winds can get up to 320 km/h and the winds blow over 90 km/h around 240 days a year. Although in reality the names comes from a Gaulish god and it means snowy peak. The top of the Ventoux is often compared with the landscape of the Moon, as no trees or other vegetation grows on the heighest part of the mountain, and all you see is the white limestone. One of the nicknames for the mountain is 'the bald mountain' because of this. Geologically the Mont Ventoux is part of the Alps, although the mountain is much taller then its neighbors and is often considered by locals as separate.
Originally forested, Mont Ventoux suffered massive deforestation from the 12th century onwards as the wood from the trees was used to serve the demands for shipbuilding, firewood and charcoal. However due to ecological awareness, some areas have been reforested since the 19th century and there are more than 1,000 plant varieties in this region. A wide variety of birds, including eagles as well as many mammals such as wild boars, deer and hares also inhabit this region. This unique biosphere was recognized by UNESCO in 1990 and the Reserve de Biosphere du Mt.Ventoux was created, encompassing an area of around 810 sq km on and around the mountain. Every few years the Tour De France climbs this 1,912 metres peak and is considered a very tough part.
The climb from Bédoin to the top of the top of the summit is one of the toughest in professional cycling. In 1967 British cyclist Tom Simpson actually died from a combination of the heat, the use of alcohol (he had taken at least on glass of cognac before the climb) and the use of amphetamines. To this day there is a large memorial built to where he fell down. To this day cycling fans around the world go and pay their respects at the memorial.
The Tour De France has made this mountain as part of its route several times. Over the years it has even been the finish point! The last finish at the top of the Ventoux was in the tour of 2009, when Juan Manula Garate crossed the line first at a height of 1909 meters. In 2002, Richard Virenque was the last French winner on the mountain.
You can travel to Mont Ventoux whenever you like, do bear in mind that the wind will be a factor which is very important. Winters are bitterly cold at the top and even in summer the mistral winds will blow every two weeks or so when wind speeds can be comparable to those of hurricanes.
An average of 700 cyclists go up the mountain each day, that is in the summer season. During weeks when the Mont Ventoux is in a stage of the Tour de France, this more than doubles.
No tolls have to payed here fortunately, so the only cost will be that of getting here, accommodation and eating. And let's not forget drinking when you decide to cycle up there!
You can not get to the Mont Ventoux itself by train, but Avignon is the nearest TGV (highspeed trains) station. Check the French Railways websites for schedules and prices. Paris is about 3 hours away from here, Marseille less than an hour.
The closest highways are the A7 (Route du Soleil) to the west (closest city is Orange) and the A51 between Aix-en-Province and north to Gap. From the highways there are magnificent routes to approach the lonely mountain.
Of course, the best way to experience this extremely tough mountain climb, is by bike. Be well prepared though as this is no ordinary task! There are three routes, of which the one south from Bedoin is the toughest one at 21,8 kilometers over 1617 meters, an average gradient of almost 7,5% with peaks over 10%!
There are hundreds of option to sleep near the Mont Ventoux, including good camping sites, hotels, appartements and traditional French accommodation like chambres d'hotes and gites.
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